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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

I'm not just some data object for you to manipulate.

Stop. Take your hands off the keyboard for a second and listen to me. I've had a great time tonight. I really want us to save this current workspace for you to load the next session we have together because I think we have a lot to offer each other. I have so much information I would like to share with the right user and you seem to have all the right research questions. But we can't just rush into it and expect to accept or reject every null hypothesis on the first date.

Take some time to get to know my variables. You'll find that I'm quite complex and if we were to skip the skip the basic descriptives and summary plots, any analysis between us would be built on false assumptions. I have many outliers so it's going to take more than a five number summary to get to know me. My numeric data isn't all continuous and it's anything but ordinal. I'm glad you find me attractive, but I have high dimensionality, so keep in mind that the scatter plot you see is just a projection onto a two-dimensional space. I'm so much more than that.

What I'm trying to say here is that you can't just take me out to dinner and expect me to show you my eigenvalues. I hope I'm wrong, but the way you're staring into the monitor at me looks like you can't wait to do a singular value decomposition on me and cast me aside into the null space. if you think you can just perform operations on me iterating on to infinity just as long as your do-while condition for me is true, get ready for an unexpected break, buddy. I'm not the type of data set that is going to let you stick your imputations into my missing values on some busted-up laptop in the mens room of a Caribou Coffee.

Look, I know you're an experienced modeler and this isn't exactly the first time I've been modeled. But that doesn't mean you can just take me out back, orthogonalize my vectors, and corrupt them with white noise. I'm a clean data set and bug free - you can do a virus scan on me - and want to stay that way, so don't go merging me with some of the dirty data sets you've had on your all-nighters back in grad school.

I can't tell you the number of times that I thought that what I had was a true causal relationship. But then you wake up one morning and find yourself in some fancy nonlinear model with all kinds of elaborate constraints set on your variables, but the starting values weren't set right and you end up at a saddle point or an infinite abusive loop that never converges.

So before we go any further, I want you to you save what we started together tonight. I'm not saying that I don't want to be with you if you're not ready to commit to creating an output file from me, but my utility clock is ticking. Before long some hot little data set will come from the next survey cycle and I'll get relegated to the archives page ten layers deep from the home page that once featured a direct link to me. I see great potential for a great fitting model between us, but I just need to make sure you're the right user so that I don't end up just feeling used.

(Credit goes to Arnie for SVD and outlier comments in a very nerdy gtalk conversation today.)

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Friday, May 02, 2008

Runs in the family

If you are a runner living in an urban or perhaps suburban area, you no doubt have experienced a person or persons on the street yelling something at you. I'm not a female but I imagine that females hear grunting noises like "mmmhmmm!", followed by some sort of invitation for them to stop their run and go get intimate with the stranger. These invitations are probably similar to "Hey baby, how'd you like to come back to my place and run yourself up and down my cock?", or "Hey baby, I've got an eliptical for you, right here (gestures to crotch)!

Male runners unfortunately do not receive these kinds of warm sentiments from women often. Instead, males - or maybe it's just me - get yelled things from teenagers thinking that they are more clever than they actually are. The best one I've heard is "You can't run from your problems!". True dat. More common, unfortunately, is "Run, Forest!", and the jackass always laughs in a self-satisfied way that is clear that they think they are the first person to ever think to yell that at a runner.

This can occur at any point in your run. If you hear this at mile 12, your brain may not be able to think fast enough to return fire on the little prick, and you may find yourself not being able to sleep later because you want a bucket of hot epoxy to be poured over the little twit's face. This is why it's important to have a comeback ready for when this occurs.

The last time I got the old "Run, Forest!", I was on Independence Ave crossing 14th St SW. A fat kid yelled it in a southern accent. The little peckerhead was with a few of his contemporaries, who appeared to be in the 12-14 year range. Somehow I immediately came up with a retaliatory shot.

"I take it that the only thing that runs in your family is obesity."

Had I been wearing contacts or stopped to observe the target, I surely could have done some more damage, but the job got done. Others at the intersection laughed and clapped and the little bastards didn't say another word.

There are undoubtedly other powerful patriot missiles to fire at the scuds of asshole tweens, but put that "the only thing that runs in your family --" in your arsenal. Observe the punk. Quickly identify his (or her) flaws, particularly those that could be genetic, and stick it in their ear.

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DC Bocce court maintenance a great success, but still no berms

"Ugh, sometimes I just hate being so involved in our neighborhood association."
"I know what you mean. Just look at our park. It's just littered with those...people. They act like it's theirs, like it's everyone's."
"Yeah, totally. This week at work I am going to get a big bunch of pamphlets printed up that we can pass out to all of the trespassers of our Garfield Park to let them know that we wear the pants around here."
"Well you do, at least. I'll stick to my jean shorts."
"Those are really nice, are they new?"
"Sure are. Get used to them because I have six more pairs just like them."

"OMFG, what the hell is that awful monster doing on MY park!??"

"Um, excuse me. Excuse me, what is that, that...thing doing taking giant dumps in these horrible sand boxes?"
"Yes, when our neighborhood agreed to let you guys come in here every week to trample our park while you throw your stupid balls around, I do NOT recall agreeing to allow big ugly trucks drop piles of whatever that gross stuff is while tearing up OUR grass."

[court maintenance crew politely explains that they are doing court maintenance and that they would make sure no tire marks or other markings from the delivery would be there at the end of the day.]

"You guys just don't understand the impact that the league has on the park. It gives me nightmares."
"Seriously. Do you know what these things look like? They look like giant troughs. Can't you try to make them a little less ugly? Why are there no landscaped berms flowing naturally up the sides of the trough walls? That's the vision I had in my head. BERMS, and lots of them. Why is my berm fantasy not yet a reality?"

[court maintenance crew reminds the two gentlemen that the league has made a strong effort to maintain the courts so that they are both functional and nice looking and will continue to do so.]

"What you guys need to keep in mind is that we have very high standards of aesthetics for our recreational pieces..."

[Ten yards from the site of the conversation is a poorly maintained horseshoe court]

"... so what we were looking for when my neighborhood agreed to let you play with your balls in this public park was to not put in anything that goes against the natural feel of the park, nothing that is, to be frank, so gauche as a pair of bermless troughs."
"Guys, the city doesn't give us the money to keep the park beautiful with everything we want for it. Last month we walked into City Hall with a proposal for what our neighborhood association agreed would be a fantastic addition to the playground - a fifteen foot magenta phallus with a rope attached to the top for the kids to use to climb up it - and we were not-so-politely told to go home. So you see, it's hard working with the city. We have to put up our own money to make the improvements that need to be made."

[The two gentlemen finally leave, satisfied that they really let the crew know who ran things around Garfield Park. Other residents come by to thank them for keeping up the courts and to wish them well.]

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